5 ways to build your photography business with little money
Money can be great when you have it, but it can also be a great frustration when you’re trying to build a business with very little or no money. Whether you are starting out or simply wanting to get to the next level, money is needed to build a business. While there are cheap marketing opportunities like social media and word-of-mouth, having the money needed to make an investment can help to propel your business forward.
The unfortunate reality is that many starting out, or wanting to level-up, don’t have the extra funds to invest. With such a low barrier to entry in photography, many business owners jump in or attempt to scale up without having financial backers or an established investment amount. This happens often – if you find yourself in this situation, the lack of funds does not need to lead to growth restriction or business demise.
Here’s a quick rundown of five ways to help grow your photography business on the limited funds available (without having to rely on quantity of clients over quality of clients using flash-sales or mini-sessions every weekend that run you into the ground).
Know Your Costs
When you walk into a store to purchase an item, you already know whether you have money in the bank to pay for the transaction. If your cash comes up short or your card is declined, what happens? You can’t buy that item. Same goes for business; knowing the costs and funds available helps to outline the exact cash flows occurring in your business.
Don’t be a business owner that floats along, hoping for the client checks to beat the overhead cost withdrawals on the bank account. This is an irresponsible and stressful way to run your business.
It is not enough to just charge. You have to charge appropriately, and this starts with knowing your costs.
Be responsible. Know your costs. Succeed at business.
Make a Real Budget
This was already hinted at in the first step, but knowing costs isn’t the entire budget. The reason I identify this step as a “real” budget is that many business owners only put down their costs and call it a day. They omit many important line items that are needed, and not accounting for these can stunt the growth of their business.
A budget requires balancing your potential future growth with complications that could arise. Growth includes the acquisition of needed protection like business structure changes, contracts, insurance, etc. Future complications include emergencies such as equipment theft/loss/repair, personal injury, and economic downturn.
Business owners often leave out these line items to create what they believe to be a “real budget” and hope to have the cash for everything else when the time comes. The following items should always be considered when making a budget:
- Debt payments
- Future marketing actions
- Savings (rainy day, education, professional services, equipment upgrades)
This list is certainly not all-inclusive, but a good start!
Drawing loans or putting business expenses on a credit card is a surefire way to slow the growth of your business. Starting and growing a business does not require the use of debt such as credit cards, loans or an “in-the-red” banking account. Once the “real” budget is set up, it is easier to manage the costs of the business by eliminating those that aren’t giving a direct return to business growth. Eliminating these costs can free up funds for other line items and avoid bogging down a business with inflated overhead costs.
If you do decide to take on some business debt, refer to the previous step and always make a plan to get that debt paid off. The quicker the debt is gone, the quicker funds are freed up to be invested in growth.
Don’t enter into the business expecting to make money right away. Even with a concrete and well-established marketing plan, building a business takes time. If you are wanting to quit a job and replace the income with photography, consider making a long-term plan for quitting instead of a rash decision.
On top of that, take a good portion of the income that you do bring in and re-invest in your business. Unless it is absolutely needed to bring home “X” funds, lower your personal income and invest in marketing and business actions that will give a high rate of return.
Reinvestment should always be occurring in a business, therefore, the real budget should be a living, breathing document that changes as the business and economy change.
Always be on the look-out for deals that may be available with the items that you truly need.
- Make a priority list of items you need (such as protecting business with contracts, accounting software, or equipment upgrades).
- Submit your email address to the email lists of vendors with these products so that you are notified of their sales.
- Set aside the money to snag these deals.